Maine’s economic success depends upon a skilled workforce – produced by Maine’s public universities. In the last decade, the University of Maine System has awarded more than 56,000 degrees and most of its graduates stay in Maine to live, work and contribute to our communities.
Maine voters on Nov. 6 will have a historic opportunity to approve Question 4, which asks if they want to invest $49 million in Maine's public universities for the purpose of increasing massive workforce development capacity — with the ultimate goal of attracting and retaining students to improve and strengthen Maine’s future workforce.
Of that $49 million, $25 million will be directly invested in the University of Southern Maine’s (USM) three campuses, supporting workforce development and job creation in critically-needed areas. These include:
- Educating more nurses to work in rural Maine.
- Ensuring graduates have skills for a global economy.
- Expanding career services.
The remaining funds will go to the six other members universities of the University of Maine System to fund workforce development initiatives and infrastructure improvements.
Maine relies on the $1.5 billion annual statewide economic impact of the University of Maine System – a $7.50 return for every State dollar. For less than the cost of a new Maine high school, Question 4 will:
- Improve and expand classrooms/labs to provide modern education/training where Maine needs workers.
- Increase recruitment, retention and graduates ready for good-paying careers in Maine.
- Reduce operating and maintenance costs and the University’s footprint.
- Bring more students, jobs, investments and opportunities to University campuses and local communities and keep them in Maine.
More information on Question 4 can be found at Yes4MainesWorkforce.org.
How USM will benefit from a "Yes" vote on Question 4:
The USM School of Nursing’s programs provide the academic and social foundation for nursing graduates to meet the needs of the citizens of Maine and the global community.
The school produces more nursing degree graduates than any other school in Maine. Of the roughly 500 students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs, more than 350 work in area hospitals.
Because 51 percent of Maine’s registered nurses (RNs) are age 50 or older, there is a projected shortage of 3,200 RNs by 2025.
At USM, funding from Question 4 will be used to double the space and capacity of the School of Nursing’s nursing simulation lab, a critical component of nursing education as it allows students to practice their skills — along with their peers and professors — in a setting that won’t cause harm to live patients.
With doubled space, USM can prepare and graduate 250 more nurses every five years who will be able to work with various populations, including in rural Maine where nurses are needed most.
USM nursing students and alumni are passionate about their profession. Take Jon White, a former IT specialist who decided to leave his job and enter USM’s 15-month accelerated nursing pathway: he now works in Maine Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit, treating patients who require the most critical care.
There’s also Melissa Cunningham, who as a student cared for people who are poor, homeless, dealing with addiction or coping with mental illness. Through the USM’s School of Nursing, she worked on a Bayside homeless project and spent a summer in an internship at Preble Street.
And, with the development of a new Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner degree program, USM nursing graduates will be prepared to provide comprehensive patient-centered care to adults and older adults with acute, complex and critical illnesses — and it’s the only face-to-face acute care nurse practitioner degree in Maine.
Health care professionals agree it is important now more than ever to have trained nurses with 4-year degrees.
“As health care grows more complex in technology, and as the science continues to emerge on how we can best take care of patients, we need more nurses with 4-year degrees,” said Lois Skillings, RN, MSN, president and chief executive officer of Mid Coast-Parkview Health, which runs MidCoast Hospital in Brunswick. “Question 4 is important because it’s an investment in Maine’s future; it’s an investment to make sure that we have enough of the right talent right here in Maine to care for the people who need us most.”
Demand for engineers in Maine continues to rise — in fact, in the next decade, it is projected Maine will need an additional 2,500 engineers as the state works to improve its infrastructure and the economy grows.
USM has graduated more than 160 skilled engineers in the past five years and, in the past decade, the number of engineering students studying at USM has doubled. Additionally, the Department of Engineering has provided internships to one or more students at more than 70 companies.
If passed, Question 4 will add needed funding to the engineering department, enabling USM to double the number of engineering graduates in 10 years.
This is critical, as the department seeks to advance its programming to include a potential new major in computer engineering, plus investments in industrial engineering and engineering science majors.
USM is already preparing students today for the careers of tomorrow. Seth Percy ‘19, a senior electrical engineering student with a concentration in computer engineering, is just one prime example of how.
Percy is currently working with his faculty advisor, Carlos Lück, to modify and program a desktop manipulator (called Microbot) to perform tasks based on Lück’s own Ph.D. dissertation and principles of redundant manipulation, optimization and semi-singularity.
Simply put, it’s similar to artificial intelligence (AI). WIth the knowledge and skills Percy has gained, he aims to enter the burgeoning field of medical robotics. That’s no small task — there are more than 500,000 robot-assisted surgeries in the United States each year, and one in three surgeries will be performed by robots by the early 2020s.
On a larger scale, USM engineering graduates helping shape the future of the U.S. armed forces.
Ron Peterson and Hector Ortiz graduated from the Department of Engineering at USM in 2014. Today, they’re making waves at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Maine’s famed naval powerhouse, which employes 5,700 workers designing and building some of the world’s most sophisticated ships.
A “yes” vote on Question 4 will help students, like Seth Percy, achieve their career goals and provide more opportunities for those like Ron Peterson and Hector Ortiz who work to keep troops safe offshore.
International Trade, Global Relations
The skills needed for a global economy go beyond just science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Graduates with knowledge of business and international relations will also be critical for the Maine economy to prosper.
According to the Maine International Trade Center (MITC), of which USM is a part, trade supports 180,500 — or 1 in 4 — Maine jobs. Since 2009, Maine jobs related to trade increased by 25.9 percent, meaning the need for skilled workers is apparent.
Enter Shaelan Donovan, a recent graduate of USM who partook in unique partnership between USM and Reykjavík University (RU) in Iceland. There, she was able to take business classes while advancing her career in international trade — the first USM student to do so.
In Iceland, Donovan worked for multinational shipping company Eimskip, which in 2013 established its North American headquarters in Portland. The effects of that move have dramatically increased international shipments from Maine — 600 percent since 2009, according to the MITC.
A “yes” vote on Question 4 will help talented students, like Shaelan Donovan, advance their careers while gaining skills to work in an increasingly globalized world.
Passing Question 4 will enable USM to create a new Student Success Center on USM’s Portland campus. The center is expected to serve 750 additional career-ready graduates entering the workforce every five years.
In 2017 alone, USM’s bustling Career & Employment Hub provided students with over 1,400 internships in Maine, the nation and the world. An interactive map plots the internships completed by more than 950 students at 430 employers between 2013 and spring 2017.
Watch one of the Hub’s career advisors, Stacy Stewart, talk about how the this rapid internship placement, and how the Hub is working hands-on with employers to fill the skills gap in Maine’s workforce. And, hear from one of those interns, Margaret Smith, a senior marketing major who interned at Systems Engineering, about how her work with the Career Hub made a difference in her education.
Career readiness is also the subject of The USM Update, Sept. 4.
Support for Question 4
At USM’s first-ever Engineering Hiring Fair on Oct. 11, hosted by the Career & Employment Hub, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and Educate Maine publicly endorsed Question 4. Maine's leading business advocacy organizations explain why University investment is critical to meeting statewide workforce needs.
In his letter to the USM community, USM President Glenn Cummings discusses what the passage of Question 4 would mean for USM and the University of Maine System: "Our alumni, corporate and community partners, students, and faculty will be valuable voices in building public support for this bond between now and November."
Watch the Oct. 1 episode of The USM Update, which highlights workforce development and the impact of Question 4. USM's Nursing and Engineering programs are the focus.
Letters to the Editor:
- Question 4 invests in future
- Yes on Question 4 will improve USM, region
- To build Maine’s workforce, vote ‘yes’ on Question 4
- Invest in County’s workforce by voting Yes on Question 4
- Question 4 addresses nursing shortage, workforce crisis
- University Officials Say That Question 4 Can Help Address Maine Labor Shortage (Maine Public)
- Voters asked to invest in higher education (Portland Press Herald)
- State’s workforce challenge tackled at USM (USM News)
Maine is graduating more nurses, but not enough to fill projected shortage (Bangor Daily News)
Stay up-to-date with the latest news, including endorsements of Question 4, by visiting Yes4MainesWorkforce.org as well as the Yes on 4 Facebook page, where you can also view the campaign TV spot. Follow updates and stories on social media using #Yes4MainesWorkforce.
By Alan Bennett // Office of Public Affairs